Saturday, June 29, 2013

Wines of the Tour de France Stage 1: Domaine de Marquiliani Rosé de Sciaccarellu & Chaos
If you are not familiar with how I blog about the Tour, please see this post for more info on my style and wine pairing rules. Along with my daily pre-stage thoughts, I'll also be including a preview paragraph from the race director. Note that his thoughts were written well in advance of the race start. This will be followed by my own daily preview, a live-blog style write up of the day's action and, at the end, the day's wine.
From LeTour: Jean François Pescheux's view
"Why isn't there a prologue? Quite simply because we wanted to take the fullest advantage of Corsica, the only region of France that has never previously welcomed the Tour de France. With that in mind, we've put together a first stage of 212km that runs through magnificent countryside: we will start off by heading to beautiful Bonifacio! There's little doubt we will also start with a win for a sprinter. This is a golden opportunity for the likes of Cavendish, for example, to claim the yellow jersey. I'll remind you that the previous road stage "openings", at Plumelec and Les Herbiers, finished on the top of hills, which favoured the puncheurs. Here, the advantage lies with the pure sprinters."

This year is the 100th edition of the Tour de France, so this year the race is taking place completely within French boundaries, though they have left the mainland for three opening stages in Corsica. The opening days of the Tour are, as has been said many times, not always the days on which the race is won, but an early crash could make them the days the race is lost. Thus, lots of nervous riders in the peloton. Rather than a prologue, this year starts with a sprint stage, which immediately launches the expected to be very exciting battle for the green points jersey. Much like the red jersey I wrote about so often during the Giro, this is a competition determined by points at intermediate sprint points along the route and at the end of the stage. Sprinters get more points for finishing first at the end, than at intermediate points. As I was during the Giro, I'm rooting for Mark Cavendish. More on this to come later in the race.

My Podium Cafe Stage Predictor picks of the day:  Cav, Sagan, Kittel and Greipel. 
From twitter:
MarkCavendish 2:22am via Twitter for iPhone
The day I most look forward to every year with my job: The start of @letour. Looks like a bunch sprint today on Stage1 in Corsica. Allez!!

Bikes on the road and the first conclusion of the Tour is that Corsica is lovely. Plus, Cav's British champion kit makes him easy to spot in the OPQS train. The first break of the race: Flecha, Boom, Lobato, Cousin and Lemoine. With about 130 km remaining, their lead reached three minutes. They are not working very hard though. Indeed, as they reach the feed zone, their lead had dropped to just over one minute.
mrconde 5:44am via Web
Flecha is a wise man. He sees the break doesn't get away for good and tells the others to stop. No need to waste energy this early. #tdf

inrng 5:49am via Web
Break sits up. Jerome Cousin presses on with the combativity prize in mind

 But then the break reformed. A bit odd. With 100km of racing remaining, Cousin had 30 seconds over the chase and 3'10 on the peloton. Cousin was caught by that chase group and they gained and maintained a gap of about four minutes for quite a few kilometers. 
As they approached the intermediate sprint point, it had dropped slightly:
70km to go, 2'47" gap #TDF

 At the sprint point, Boom passed Flecha to take maximum points. In the field: Greipel, Cav and then Sagan. 
And then, well, chaos started. So much chaos that I had to stop writing and instead stare at the tv. 
From Podium Cafe: With very little time left in the race, the team buses rolled past the finish line, but the Orica-GreenEdge bus, apparently the tallest of the lot, got stuck under the finish line banner, a steel scaffolding contraption. And by stuck, I mean it couldn't move. The bus had managed to raise the banner, destabilizing the finish line scaffolding, and the causing the organization to evacuate the immediate area. For some time, with the bus not moving, a scramble ensued to determine where the stage would finish. First it was at 100 meters. Then it was moved to the 3km mark, on the theory that there was a camera on hand to sort out photo finishes. But that line was set just around a tricky curve in the road, an utterly dangerous place to stage a sprint.

Bus remains stuck under the finish banner. Maybe if enough middle-aged men stand around at stare at it, that'll solve the problem.

Same situation was an Encyclopedia Brown case. Let air out of the tires.

As @gagedesoto notes, buses need to be kept out of bike lanes. #tdf

Well, this is the first day of the next 100 years of the Tour de France. #tdf

Panic ensued, but eventually, the bus was moved and the finish line reverted to the original spot. 

Meanwhile, a crash with about 5km to go eliminated Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan from the sprint -- Sagan went down, while Cavendish got blocked. A Radioshack-Leopard rider leaned into Omega Pharma-Quick Step's leadout man Gert Steegmans, knocking him over and taking down Sagan. Andre Greipel seemed to have survived the chaos, but was seen a couple minutes later standing next to his malfunctioning bike. Orica-GreenEdge's Matt Goss, probably the next biggest favorite, went down in the final turn from a touch of wheels.

Kittle survived to win the day, but the bigger news would be the injuries caused by the crash.  More on that sure to come. All riders, by the way, were given the same finishing time.

Stage and Yellow: Marcel Kittel (Ger) Team Argos - Shimano

White background to emphasize the pale color
Wine: If this is Corsica, it must be a Kermit Lynch wine. Although it is certainly possible that someone else is importing Corsican wine into the US, I haven't heard about them. So today, the first of three KLWM wines to open the Tour. 
From Dig $28
From the importer, Kermit Lynch:

The village of Aghione is not far from the old Roman capitol of Corsica on the eastern coast of the island, poetically known as the Costa Serena. Flanked against the Corsican Mountains where the flats begin to rise into the hills, this small village of 235 inhabitants is just as celebrated today for its sulfur springs, olive groves, and vineyards as it was thousands of years ago. The enduring legacy is no coincidence—cool nights, high altitude, and the soil help the grapes retain their freshness and allow for a slow, even ripening. The terraced land of Aghione is a mix of schist and granite gravel with silt that has descended from the mountains over the last ten thousand years.

The Amalric family has farmed Domaine de Marquiliani since the 1950s, nearly twenty years after the two hundred-year-old domaine was destroyed in a fire and abandoned. The Amalrics bought the property and replanted the vineyards. Daniel Amalric earned great recognition for his wines, as he was the first to plant Niellucciu and Syrah on this side of the island. In 1995, he was joined by his daughter, Anne, an agricultural chemist who had returned from mainland France to take her place at the family farm. Initially, Anne put her energy into planting olive and almond trees. Her determination has not been in vain, as Domaine de Marquiliani’s olive oil is widely regarded as the best in Corsica. Recently, Anne has turned her focus back to the vineyards, which are well-rested after a long hiatus. She still works side-by-side with her father and is quick to credit him as her guiding light in the vineyards and the cellar. In spite of her modesty, Anne has become a success in her own right. Her wine made an instant impression on Kermit, who raves, “Drinking her rosé is like drinking a cloud. There’s an absolute weightlessness to it. Nothing is left on the palate but perfume.”

Dig says: Anne Amalric's superb rosé blends 92% Sciaccarellu with 8% Syrah from 40-year-old vines planted in 1964. Imagine strawberries crushed over slate, such is the balance of fruit with schist and granite soils in a wine that is at once elegant and yet strikingly mineral in nature.  

I say: One of the palest rosés I have seen. Delicate, with hints of lemon and strawberry, yet the wet stone lingers. One of those "Hey, wait, wasn't there more left in my glass?" wines. K says "Smells like lemon and strawberries." Given how delicate this wine was I expected it to have faded by day two: instead, it remained fresh and vibrant

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